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Summer 2002 trail tips from the USFS Bend - Ft. Rock District
Summer 2002   Winter 2002 - 2003  Summer 2003   Winter 2003 - 2004  Summer 2004   Winter 2004 - 2005



A change is in store with this update for some early fall snow in the higher elevations. Reports have come in that we have received 4-5 inches of snow at the higher elevations on the District's west side trails. Snow was reported falling as low as the Tumalo Falls area today (Monday). This snow is not likely to last but a few days. We've also received light to moderate rain at the mid elevations. The moisture is more than welcome and as things warm and melt off conditions should be great for fall trail

Keep in mind that these early fall snows usually last only a few days at most before they melt off. It's during these minor fall snow periods that we can receive some very serious ground and vegetation disturbance when recreationists try to get an early start on winter trail activities or take their highway vehicles off road illegally. Early snowmobile riding on minimal snow is especially damaging to soils and vegetation and is not permitted until there is sufficient snow depth to prevent this damage from occurring. Violators will be cited for causing such damage. You are also less likely to hit buried hazards like rocks and logs which can cause serious injury and vehicle damage when you wait for deeper and solid snow accumulations. So please, wait for snow to sufficiently accumulate and settle (approx. 18-24 inches of solid snow base) to avoid causing these impacts. If you should see illegal and ground disturbing off road activity occurring please contact law enforcement at: (541) 388-0170. Several individuals have been cited in recent weeks with hefty penalties imposed for such activities. Be aware that roads and trails can close without notice due to snow over the coming weeks. Winter trail preparations are underway with volunteers and trail personnel starting trail clearing, sign installation and warming shelter wood stocking. If you are interested in finding out more on how you can help with our winter trails program, contact your local snowmobile or nordic ski club representatives or the Bend/Fort Rock Ranger District Volunteer Coordinator, Todd Cardin, at: (541) 383-4794.

One last note on fall trail safety; with possibly rapid changing weather conditions, cold temperatures and shortening daylight it is very essential that you go properly prepared for your outing. Often times the fall season is when people find themselves in a life threatening situation when fast moving weather and short days catch them off guard. Remember to take extra clothing, food, water, flashlight, fire starter, map/compass etc. and to notify family or friends of your plans before you go and when you return. Take a cell phone if you have one but only after you follow through with the "Ten essentials" and notification process. A cell phone will be of little use if it unexpectedly doesn't work for some reason.

Chris Sabo, Trails Specialist 
Bend/Fort Rock Ranger District


What is trail and wilderness restoration? In short, the restoration we do is a process of closing and restoring to its natural setting a trail, closed road, off road vehicle impact area, or human impacted wilderness site. In most cases these restoration areas are closed for long terms or permanently. There are several reasons we may close and “restore” a trail or site and they include:

    Trail reconstruction or relocations to remove high impact trails from riparian areas, eroding slopes, or plant and wildlife sensitive areas. In these cases construction of    new trail usually takes place before the old section of trail is closed and restored.
    Trails that have been widened by heavy use and where people hike and ride bikes and horses two and more abreast.

Closure of user constructed trails. This illegal trail construction activity occurs when an individual (s) chooses to construct a trail without Forest Service or other agency approval or environmental documentation. These trails may pass through plant, wildlife or culturally sensitive areas and often times are not designed properly and are subject to excessive erosion. They may also trespass on private property.

    In areas where erosion from trail activities causes negative impacts to water quality; as in municipal watershed areas.
    In campsites, trailheads, or other heavily visited areas where erosion and excessive vegetation impacts are a problem.
    Trails that are closed due to low or no use and only add to maintenance demands with no return.
    Closed roads and old jeep trails no longer in use. Also areas where illegal off road vehicle impacts cause soil erosion, vegetation impacts and leave ugly scars.
    Short cut areas on switchback trails.

A restoration project may be as simple as placing some rocks and logs in a manner to redirect human traffic from the impacted area. Or, it may be a process involving soil conditioning, erosion control devices, transplanting of native vegetation, seeding, signing, user education, and then years of healing by natural cycles. If you should come across a trail or area that is obviously closed for restoration, please help in the healing process by staying out of the closed area and instruct others in your group to do so.

Hike, bike, and horse ride single file on trails. There are a few trails that are constructed wider for side by side use, but not many. Don’t cut switchbacks; they are constructed to prevent erosion. Avoid driving your vehicle off of established roads and trails or in areas that such activity impacts soils and vegetation; riparian areas are especially sensitive.

Practice Leave No Trace techniques whenever using the outdoors!  Thank you for your cooperation with trails and Wilderness restoration!

Chris Sabo, Trails Specialist
Bend/Fort Rock Ranger District

USFS trail courtesy suggestions 09.09.02

One new trail item of interest for those planning on climbing South Sister from the Moraine Lake approach. The user created trail going north from Moraine Lake up the canyon has been permanently closed and we are in the process of restoring the trail to a natural state. The trail is located on a very steep scree slope that has become excessively eroded and now presents a serious scar on the Wilderness landscape. To allow continued hiker traffic on this route would only deepen the erosion. 

The decision was made to close the trail beyond the designated campsites in the canyon and reroute climbers up the moraine ridge trail located at the south end of Moraine Lake. This trail provides easy access to the Climbers Trail from Moraine Lake, is safer for hikers and will allow the scared upper canyon time to heal after a labor intensive restoration project is completed over the next 1-2 years.

Please inform all Moraine Lake to South Sister hikers of this closure and also inform them of the easier option up the moraine ridge trail. This also effects any hikers coming up from Green Lakes that may want to return to Green Lakes Trailhead via Moraine Lake. They and all down climbers wanting to access Moraine Lake will need to take the moraine ridge trail just south of the Lake. There are signs in the area informing hikers of these changes.

On another important note worth repeating as the summer season begins to wind down is the issue of dog etiquette on trails. With the continuing increase in trail use comes increasing dog use. Understandable of course because like their owners, most dogs just love to hit the trails and the great outdoors. It must be an instinctual need to roam and explore the woods and mountains as their ancestors did and cousins do today. Sometimes that instinctual thing goes a bit too far in our modern day of multiple users and other dogs on the trail and conflicts (sometimes injurious) result. It may be a territorial or protective response that some dogs overreact when encountering other people, dogs, stock, or wildlife on the trail and in the wilds; and a well behaved dog one moment turns into a barking fury of raised fur and flaring teeth. The end result is usually owners scrambling to gain control of their pets sometimes with bloodshed resulting in the attempt and usually with adrenaline and sometimes less than pleasant language from the humans.

With dog ownership comes the added responsibility of maintaining control of your pet AT ALL TIMES. Trying to REGAIN CONTROL of your dog after a conflict ensues is not a pleasant option and has resulted in serious injuries to animal and human alike. Dog owners need to follow some additional etiquette items including:

Prevent your dog from harassing or chasing wildlife, stock animals, other dogs and people by maintaining control of your dog at all times (preferably with a leash if not under complete voice control). If you know your dog is aggressive, be on the safe side and use a leash. Leash your dog when required! All national forest developed recreation sites including trailheads/snow parks, campgrounds, picnic areas require dogs be leashed at all times. Other areas and trails like the local Deschutes River Trail and some areas of Wilderness (South Sister Climbers trail to Todd Lake in the near future) also require dogs remain leashed at all times.

Maintain visual contact with your dog at all times and clean up after your pet by removing waste from trails, campsites, water sources, trailheads and anywhere dog waste may cause user conflicts or sanitation concerns. An owner doesn't know what his/her pet is doing when out of visual contact and wildlife harassment stresses wildlife whether the dog catches it or not. Dogs may also attempt to dig up ground dwelling wildlife; damaging wildlife habitat and leaving scars on the landscape. Many dogs are carriers of Giardia and other diseases easily transferred to humans, wildlife and other dogs through direct feces or feces/water contact.

Some local areas have year round or seasonal dog bans. In most National Parks and some Wilderness areas dogs are banned year round. In the area north of Cascade Lakes Highway from Meissner Snow Park to Todd Lake there is a winter ban on dogs from November 15 to April 30. For exceptions on this dog closure contact Bend/Fort Rock Ranger District at 383-4000.

Please, be a responsible pet owner and help to avoid the unfortunate need to impose future dog restrictions on area trails. This also helps you avoid expensive fines and stressful encounters with others.

Chris Sabo, Trails Specialist
Bend/Fort Rock Ranger District

USFS trail courtesy suggestions 08.28.02

Early weekend weather predictions are looking favorable for outdoor activities this coming Labor Day Weekend! With that we expect to see very busy conditions on the more popular trails in the area including Deschutes River Trail, Phil’s, Skyliner, and Tumalo Trails area, Todd Lake, and many of the Three Sisters Wilderness Trails. With those busy conditions comes the need to practice more patience and trail etiquette whether hiking, biking or horse riding. Basic trail etiquette and safety tips on multi-use trails includes:

Bikers yield to hikers and horse riders; also sound a warning in advance when approaching others from behind. Always ride under control and avoid hard braking to avoid user conflicts, accidents, and trail erosion.

Hikers yield to horse and other stock users, preferably on the downhill side of trail if safe.

Horse users, please remove animal waste from trails, along water sources, trailheads and other areas of high use.

Prevent your dog from chasing wildlife, stock animals, other dogs and people by maintaining control of your dog at all times (preferably with a leash if not under good voice control). All developed recreation areas including trailheads require dogs be leashed at all times. Other areas and trails like the Deschutes River Trail and some areas of Wilderness also require dogs remain leashed. Maintain visual contact with your dog at all times and clean up after your pet by removing waste from trails, campsites, water sources, trailheads and anywhere dog waste may cause user conflicts or sanitation concerns. Be a responsible pet owner and help to avoid the need to impose future dog restrictions on area trails.

Avoid cutting switchbacks and encourage others to do the same.

Hike, bike, and horse ride single file on trails. Not doing so widens trails, increases erosion and degrades the scenic qualities we all come to enjoy.

Wilderness users, always obtain a Wilderness Permit (free) at the self issuing permit station at each trailhead.

All trail users, please read the information at the trailhead boards and be aware of any special restrictions that may apply to a certain trail or area; i.e. fire restrictions, designated campsites at Green and Moraine Lakes, trails closed to bikers or horse use, etc.

Be aware that many of the trails on the Deschutes National Forest are high use this time of year and you may wish to seek a lighter use trail in order to experience a higher degree of solitude.

Respect private property.

Plan ahead and go prepared with food, water, clothing, map/compass, Cell phone etc. to match the type of trail and backcountry experience you are seeking. Be sure your skill level and physical conditioning are up to the trip you are planning. Also, make sure the others in your group are also prepared. Let a reliable friend or family member know your plans and when you will return and what to do if you shouldn't return as planned. Be sure to contact them upon your return.

Always consider and minimize the effects of your activities on the soils, vegetation, wildlife, water, and other trail users.
Pack out all litter and remember to Leave No Trace! Your help by following these few trail etiquette and safety practices will go a long way in maintaining the environment and a quality experience for everyone.

Chris Sabo, Trails Specialist
Bend/Fort Rock Ranger District

Loving the Wilderness (to death) 08.21.02

August and September are the highest use months for the Three Sisters Wilderness. During this period at the highest use areas of the Three Sisters Wilderness, thousands of hikers and stock users will venture into lake basins and to the volcanic peaks. On a typical Saturday or Sunday in August, between 200 and 300 hikers and stock users will access the Wilderness from each of Green Lakes and Devils Lake Trailheads. For most, their destinations are Green and Moraine Lakes and South Sister or Broken Top peaks. Trails accessing these areas are often very busy with day and overnight hikers, many traveling with one or more dogs.

The true meaning and solitude of Wilderness can become diluted with such trail traffic and it takes extra effort on behalf of every visitor to minimize the physical and social impacts on the Wilderness resources. Increasing foot and hoof impacts on the fragile volcanic soils and high elevation vegetation are a never ending concern. This can be observed in the ever widening of high use trails where hikers and riders cruise along at two and sometime three abreast, oblivious to trampled vegetation and eroding soils. Or venturing off trails on slopes and meadows where fragile soils and plants are highly susceptible to impacts and slow to heal. Wildlife of all kinds and their habitats are likewise impacted by the sheer number of human visitors and canine companions out to enjoy the wild beauty and seeking a certain degree of solitude. High use areas within Wilderness are also becoming increasingly impacted by human and canine waste resulting in contaminated water sources. In many ways, outdoor visitors are loving high use Wilderness areas to death.

Wilderness visitors need to be aware of how they can minimize their personal impacts during a day or overnight outing. Anyone who ventures out should be familiar with and practice Leave No Trace skills. The basic Leave No Trace Skills and Ethics include:

Plan ahead and prepare
Travel and camp on durable surfaces
Dispose of waste properly
Leave what you find
Minimize campfire use
Respect wildlife
Respect others

To learn more about these Leave No Trace Skills and Ethics do a simple Google Search under "leave no trace". The information available in these sites is truly essential and should be practiced if visitors wish to continue enjoying public lands like The Three Sisters Wilderness.

Special high use areas like the Green and Moraine Lakes and South Sister as well as other moderate use areas in Three Sisters Wilderness are in danger of being loved to death. If you are truly interested in helping preserve the Wilderness values of these areas practice the "LNT" guidelines and see that others in your party do so as well. Find out in advance what special regulations affect these areas. These regulations are in place to reduce the human impacts to the Wilderness resources. Also consider avoiding these areas during peak use periods and visit other little used areas; you may find these out of the way areas provide more of a "Wilderness experience" with increased solitude and a special beauty of their own.

A few things to consider and practice when visiting these high use sites (or any outdoor site) include:

Stay on the main trails and avoid cutting switchbacks. Also hike and ride stock single file to avoid causing trails to widen unnecessarily. And avoid running your horse or other stock. Erosion on and along trails is an ongoing threat.

Where required at Moraine and Green Lakes and other "designated campsite areas", camp only in the posted designated campsites. This helps to contain soil compaction and plant impacts to small areas.

Bury human and pet waste 6-8" and at least 200 ft. from water sources and campsites. Avoid just covering it over with a few pieces of bark, sticks or a rock. Animals (including the family pet) often times will access this material if not properly disposed of. We also ask that you pack out toilet paper in a plastic bag when you use it. Don't bury or burn trash, but pack it out so it isn't dug up or attracted by animals.

In many high use areas, dogs are becoming an increasing impact to other visitors and wildlife. Also, many dogs become lost and are never seen again when allowed to run loose. It's recommended that you leave your pet at home if visiting a high use area or maintain it on a leash for its and other's protection. Another option is visit one of the many less visited areas; still prevent your dog from chasing after wildlife as this often stresses wildlife. A leash regulation is soon going into effect in the Green and Moraine Lakes, Fall Creek, Broken Top, Todd Lake, and South Sister area due to user conflicts.

Even where permitted avoid or lessen your impacts by not having a campfire or only build a small low impact campfire. Always treat your drinking water, no matter how pure you may think it is. Giardia is a real threat, especially in high use areas.

Remember to appreciate what we have today and treat it well so that others may enjoy it tomorrow!

Chris Sabo, Trails Specialist
Bend/Fort Rock Ranger District